Friday, September 27, 2013

mud season

They say Cambridge Bay has four seasons: ice, dust, mud and more mud. We are in our second season of mud right now.  I'll be totally honest. It's not Cambridge Bay's prettiest season.  Ice season in Cambridge Bay is pretty. Even dust season is pretty neat.

Wet,wet mud.

Mud season is just dreary.  The nights get dramatically longer. The temperature consistently hovers around 1°C, and it's just a bit too cold to go kayaking, even with a wetsuit.  It's hard to get the motivation to go outside sometimes, including hiking or jogging because, well, there's just so much mud. Wet, wet mud.  There has been a permanent blanket of clouds covering the sky. Sometimes it rains. More wet mud.  Sometimes it snows, and things are kind of pretty for a while with the light dusting of snow covering all the wet mud...but then it melts and we go back to wet mud.

We can't have nice things: Mud-speckled pants are the raging trend here in CamBay

It's not just the mud. Like I mentioned, it's been permanently cloudy and foggy.  Besides causing me daily pressure headaches at noon, it also means that the planes have not been able to land or leave Cambridge Bay - and that's a big deal for a fly-in only community.  Circuit court finished on Tuesday, but some of the staff and lawyers are still waiting to fly out.  Some visitors have been trying to leave town since Saturday but have been stranded here.  The town should put up a sign that says "WELCOME TO THE HOTEL CALIFORNIA".

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave

 Also, the whole town hasn't received any groceries or mail all week, because the planes haven't been able to leave. This is going to be a big deal for me, because we're out of tofu in our house.  And they are forecasting that it's going to keep being like this for the next five or six days.  Looks like next year, September is the month to go for a tropical vacation down south!

On the bright side, the refueling ship did finally pull into port last week. This was another big worry that the community had for a while - the entire town had been running out of fuel, and there was some concern about whether the refueling ships would make it into the Bay in time before the entire Artic Ocean froze. There were reports of large icebergs all throughout the Northwest Passage, making navigating difficult, and if our fuel resupply ships didn't make it in before the Arctic Ocean froze, they wouldn't be able to come into port until it all, in June next year. But our fuel arrived last week, hurrah, so we'll be able to keep our homes heated and trucks running for another season.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Saturday night dinner and dance

On Saturday night there was a big dinner and dance held in town as a fundraiser for the local humane society and the food bank.  We all showed up for a chance to eat some food, watch the local band play, and socialize.

I got all dressed up in my weekend evening best, which in this case happened to be a Canadian tuxedo.


I wasn't the only one in town that got dressed up.

Dinner was riblets, fried chicken, beans, corn, and a bun on the side. And not a vegetable in sight, which was just how I wanted it.


 The local band playing tunes to get the dance floor warmed up


Monday, September 23, 2013

Chuseok - Korean Thanksgiving

Last week was Chuseok (추석), Korean Thanksgiving. It's a time when Koreans are supposed to return to their hometown, eat with their family, and pay their respects to their elders and ancestors.  Unfortunately, living in Nunavut, we were too far away to visit our hometown or to visit our ancestors' gravesites (which are in Asia and Europe).  Instead, we invited some friends over to our home and had a great big Korean feast.

first course: 김밥 kimbap maki rolls

해물전 - seafood pancakes

두부 김치찌개 - kimchi stew

갈빚찜 - galbi braise beef short ribs

잡재 - glass noodles

Thursday, September 19, 2013

playing the tour guide


This week I've been finding myself playing the tour guide to several out-of-towners.  This means that I've been going on long drives and looking at a lot of scenery.  I know, it's a hard life up here.

I've been doing what I can to show the best of Cambridge Bay, and taking my own photos too.

The weather wasn't very cooperative in the morning, but it made for an interesting view of the Bay.

Luckily, the skies cleared up beautifully later in the day.


beautiful sun dog

The lakes, rivers, and ocean were all starting to freeze up this time of the year.

river freezing up

the Maud shipwreck, frozen in ice

I took one of our out-of-towners to the Visitors Centre, where there were fur hides of all sorts of animals, including an unborn seal.


I also showed her the dump, because, well, I find the dump interesting. 

The dump was on fire today.

The alien spaceship-like structures of the Distant Early Warning Stations were a definitely a must-see.

As well as, of course, the asbestos burial site behind it, a patch of ground fenced off with plastic orange in the middle of the empty tundra:

Cabin in the middle of nowhere

I wasn't sure at first why this worker was climbing up this huge pole.  I'm still not sure why, but I heard that a wolf was spotted on that road, so maybe he was trying to find a safe place?

We spotted a lot of other animals during our drives. It got to the point where it felt like I was on an exotic safari drive but I wasn't on an expensive trip in the African wilderness.  We were behind my house.

A swan, walking on ice, probably confused about why the water was so hard.

a different swan, swimming comfortably

Arctic fox, watching us

run fox run

Can you spot the Arctic hare in this photo?
He is probably waiting for more snow to fall.

We also saw some muskoxen!

They appeared to be moulting their fur in exchange for a winter coat.  A lot of the dogs in town are doing that too. It makes them look kind of funny, like they are all shaggy and they forgot to brush their hair. 


We were approaching Mount Pelly when I noticed something on top of the mountain ridge that I had never seen before. 

"What is that white  dome doing on top of the mountain?" I asked.  It was enormous.  I hadn't remembered anyone building such a large structure there the last time I had climbed it.

And then I realized it was the moon.

It was a full moon, and it was rising rapidly. 

We stood transfixed as the moon continued to climb up the sky and grow smaller, a smoke contrail leaping out as though a plane had lifted off from the moon's surface.

Meanwhile, at the same time, the sun was setting.

Sunset with sun dog still showing 

simultaneous sunset and moonrise!

Photographers joke about "AFS" ("Another Effing Sunset") but I don't think I could ever get sunset fatigue. It really was a spectacular sunset, out here on the tundra.  Every moment it seemed to grow more beautiful; every few kilometres we drove, we discovered another angle that made it seem different and better each time. And to have a glorious moonrise at the same time as a glorious sunset, while swans and foxes and hares and muskox pranced around..I really felt as though Nunavut was a magical land.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Happy Monday

Today is -1°C with more snowshowers expected throughout the day. I guess kayaking season is over!

Friday, September 13, 2013

goo goo goo joob

Rob's colleague got her hands on some walrus meat and gave Rob some.  So I came home to muktuk pasta salad:

The dark chunks are the walrus meat.  It was pretty yummy. Of course, I may have found it delicious because it was slathered in mayonnaise.  Either way, I had heard some stories before about how walrus meat was gross, but the corned hash I ate afterwards was probably a lot grosser.  I'm curious to know how muktuk would taste in sushi.  Muktuk maki rolls, anyone?

Today's blog soundtrack:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

climbing mount pelly


Last weekend, my friends and I decided to climb Mount Pelly. Our reasoning was that we wanted to take the chance to go hiking before the weather turned too cold and everything was covered in snow.   So of course, that morning, it snowed. Whatever.  If you want to wait until the perfect weather to go on an adventure, you might be stuck waiting a long time when you live in the Arctic, so we headed out anyway, snow falling around us.

Mount Pelly in the spring, with Cambridge Bay in front 

Mount Pelly in the winter, view from the Bay

Mount Pelly is the tallest "mountain" around Cambridge Bay. I say "mountain" because it's an esker formed by glaciers, so perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is the tallest ridge around Cambridge Bay.  Still, once you get up close it's a pretty considerable height to climb up, covered in the tundra plants and shale rocks that make up the Arctic rock desert landscape.



so much shale

Mount Pelly forms Ovayok Territorial Park, which features a big friendly sign, a picnic area, washrooms, and a trail map. I did not find the trail map to be particularly helpful.  There are apparently several different trails that you can take around the park.  However, the trail markings are colour-coded, and the colours assigned to each trail seem to be randomly switched between each sign post, assuming you actually find the sign posts, which is also not easy.  I personally believe this is all part of a larger plan to make your hike more exciting, just in case the possibility of running into a polar bear or a grizzly bear is not exciting enough for you.



Luckily, it's pretty easy to find your own way up the mountain, because it's not exactly like there are trees to obscure your view and get you lost. Everywhere you go, you can see forever.

glorious view of the vast landscape, 
which allows people from miles away to see who is using the outhouse

According to Inuit legend, Mount Pelly is the body of a giant named Ovayok who starved to death and died.  Nearby, you can also see the hills that form the bodies of Lady Pelly and Baby Pelly. I made sure to pack some bannock for the trip.

The climb up Mount Pelly is made up of a series of shelves, carefully designed so that as you approach the top of each shelf, you are mistakenly fooled into thinking you are close to the summit.  Then you peer over the top of the step, and realize there's another shelf to climb over.

Gloria the explorer
It was as we climbed over another shelf that we could see a figure moving in the distance close to the top.  We wanted to wave at them to chat, but then we realized we weren't sure if it was a human.

"What if it's a grizzly bear?"
"What if it's a polar bear?"
"What if it's a grolar bear?" *

*what we've decided to call a cross-breed between a grizzly bear and a polar bear BECAUSE THEY'RE DOING THAT NOW.

But it just turned out to be the reporter that we had been partying with a few nights before. She had decided to go for a walk herself to see if there were muskoxen - or maybe bears - around.

"We thought you might be a grolar bear!" we told her.
 "I thought you might be a grolar bear!" she replied. 

It's so difficult to try to capture the depth of the landscape from the mountaintop on my camera

When we got to the real top of the mountain, after many false alarms, we saw that there was an actually marked ATV trail that went along the flat top of the esker. We decided to walk along it to see what else there was to see.

It was oddly then that C chose that moment to reveal her secret thoughts about aliens one day coming by while she was in an isolated place, and swooping her up in their spaceship.  We all have our own quiet irrational preoccupations: for L, it's vampires. For F, it's zombies. For me, it's nuclear holocausts. But we all thought the same thing - this particular spot in the empty wilderness would be a pretty good place for the aliens to carry out an abduction.

At that point, we came across these odd structures. 

Were they alien structures?

Upon closer inspection, one of the structures was a plaque, commemorating fallen Inuit people. There was presumably at some point a rock memorial nearby, but all we saw was a small pile of rocks that had been knocked over, with a Coca Cola can thrown in.  We guessed that the original monument had been knocked over.

We still didn't know what the wooden platform was about, but it did make for a great tripod for a group self-portrait.

i don't know why we are crouching

In retrospect, if aliens did want to lay a trap to catch humans, setting up a camera tripod for selfies is a pretty brilliant way to do it.

C, still waiting for the aliens to come get her

As we went further along the side of one of the cliffs, we came across this unexpected message.

This was obviously not a communication sent by extraterrestrial beings. It was the work of Chris Bray, an Australian man who bought a yacht called Teleport in Canada and slowly sailed it back  through the Arctic to Australia with his love, Jess Taunton.  At some point, he stopped in Cambridge Bay and built this marriage proposal out of rocks, for Jess Taunton to find when they went hiking.

This is the story, in case you're interested:

As a side note, I'm really glad she said yes, because otherwise it would have made for a really awkward walk back down the mountain.  And an awkward sail back to Australia.

walking back

Today's blog soundtrack: